Dendroclimatological analysis of the impacts of broad scale climate variability on mid-elevation western redcedar
In the summer of 2019 I joined the Tree Ring Lab as a field research assistant in collaboration with Julie Nielsen from the SFU school of REM. Myself, and my colleague from the Nanwakolas Council, Alexandra Thomas, preformed a new method of sample collection for post-harvest old growth western redcedar (Thuja plicata). It was an incredible experience, which you can learn more about through the poster in fulfillment of the Forestry Co-op placement, which includes a QR code to a short methods video!
With permission from Julie Nielsen, I am taking the data we collected, as well as pre-harvest data collected the previous year, and examining it further for my undergraduate thesis, where I aim to examine the impacts of broad-scale climate oscilations on mature western redcedar in order to predict climate change impacts on the species in established old-growth forests.
In addition to studying the affects of climate on western redcedar, I also had the opportunity to redesign and rebrand the UBC Tree Ring Lab website! My background in graphic design, visual arts, and illustration has provided me with many advantages in science communication, to help create platforms, material, or presentations that are accessible to all audiances.
Western redcedar is a keystone species of British Columbia (BC), culturally and spiritually significant to the indigenous peoples who inhabit the pacific northwest, and a significant contributor to the provinces natural resource sector. As changing climate brings warmer winters, reducing the depth winter snowpacks that lead to summer drought, the effects it will have on remnant old growth redcedar is still unknown. This study aims to examine the limiting broad-scale climatic factors that affect mature mid-elevation western redcedar on Northern Vancouver Island. Analyzing the annual ring widths from harvested old-growth sites will produce a chronology that can be used to compare regional ring-width variation against surrounding weather station data in order to detect climate correlations related to winter snowpack, mean summer temperatures, and broad scale climate oscillations such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Pacific Decal Oscillation (PDO). A historical climate reconstruction will then be built from the sample set, providing a robust picture of past weather patterns which will inform current climate forecasts and predicted effects on remnant old-growth forests. It is hypothesized that broad-scale climate oscillations are driving factors for reduced snowpack and extreme summer temperatures, leading to growing-season drought and thus limiting the average annual ring-width of redcedar. In addition, through climate reconstruction, it appears that the frequency of these broad-scale climate oscillations has been increasing throughout the modern era and that warning signs of future redcedar dieback will be apparent. Should the indicators for future climate-induced old-growth dieback be present in these rich and ancient ecosystems, it will signal an even greater need for British Columbia to implement a robust Old-Growth Protection Strategy to protect these endangered ecosystems for future generations.